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Customer Case Study: Spectroplast

Case Study Devin Culham | April 18, 2022 | 5 min read

Spectroplast, a Zurich-based silicone additive manufacturing service provider, addressed workflow challenges using 3YOURMIND's Agile ERP and Agile MES software.

Profile:

Located in Zurich, Spectroplast was founded as an award-winning spin-off from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH) in 2018. Spectroplast is an additive manufacturing (AM) service provider developing material chemistry to print high-resolution medical-grade 3D-printed silicone parts. Currently, Spectroplast is the world’s only AM service manufacturer printing silicone-based parts.

Challenges:

Spectroplast knew it had the capabilities to print more parts but needed to optimize its AM workflow. Although its operations enabled Spectroplast to respond to customer queries, price quote orders, and print parts, the Swiss service bureau identified that it needed to address significant workflow bottlenecks to scale up its business. In order to facilitate its vision of becoming a distributed supplier, Spectroplast needed a solution that would reduce redundant task management so it could focus its resources on producing AM orders more quickly.

A Safe Way to Exchange Data with Customers

One key challenge that Spectroplast needed to address was security. Spectroplast needed a bulletproof way to keep privileged information contained without risk of exposure while working with customers in sensitive industries like medical and automotive. 

“Data encryption is really important for our customers,” says Andrey Alekseev, Head of Sales and Marketing at Spectroplast. “Back in the day, we had to introduce documents to customers to demonstrate that no data leakage can happen.”

Although Spectroplast had processes and documentation in place to exchange privileged customer information, it took time, which ultimately impacted production lead times.

Communication Needed to be Simplified

Spectroplast recognized it was experiencing communication challenges with its customers. Communication occurred mainly through email, making it difficult to know what projects were being discussed at any given time. 

“Sometimes we have multiple projects occurring at the same time with one customer,” says Alekseev. “Communicating through e-mail became challenging because it was difficult to know which project we were specifically talking about.”

E-mail communication was also difficult and required much more time to give and receive a response.

Minimize Feedback on Designs That Aren’t Printable


In addition to regular communication challenges, Spectroplast also realized it was spending too much time providing customers feedback on part designs.

“I spent quite a lot of time providing feedback to customers on parts which are clearly not printable,” says Petar Stefanov, Chief Technical Officer.

Because customers didn’t have a method for validating print designs, individuals like Stefanov spent significant time reviewing designs – wasting valuable resources from highly experienced workers. As a result, Spectroplast experienced less productivity.


Spend Less Time Creating Price Quotes

One of the first questions customers ask is, “How much?” Although Spectroplast had created a price formula to calculate costs to print each part, the process was labor and time-intensive. 

“Quotations were based on capacity, so it took a while,” says Alekseev.

Spectroplast wanted a faster method to deliver price quotes to help drive sales more quickly and with less manual effort.

Manually Sharing Order Updates is Burdensome

Another pain point in Spectroplast’s workflow was its challenge to share order updates. Status updates had to be sent manually via e-mail, which took significant time and effort, especially with multiple projects discussed in a single e-mail thread. As a result, Spectroplast needed a solution to help automate its order updates so that both customers and operators knew the status of each part at any given time.

Solution:

Spectroplast chose to partner with 3YOURMIND as its AM software vendor to alleviate bottlenecks. In October 2020, Spectroplast went live with 3YOURMIND’s Agile Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) and Agile Manufacture Execution System (MES) modules.

Agile ERP software equips Spectroplast with an order intake and customer management workflow. Spectroplast can set custom part parameters to help define technical specifications necessary for production, and automatically generate price quotes. Spectroplast uses 3YOURMIND’s ERP solution to address ordering challenges by streamlining time-to-quote periods, improving print viability, offering data encryption, automatically sending status updates, and centralizing communication in-platform. 

Agile MES connects order information from Agile ERP to AM machines to simplify order tracking and production planning. With Agile MES, Spectroplast gains greater transparency into the status of its print operations, increases machine utilization, and ensures production quality with the help of part traceability.

Key Results:

By partnering with 3YOURMIND, Spectroplast experienced:

  • Improved machine utilization by 50%
  • Production timelines decreased by 50%
  • Increased efficiency and sales by 25%
  • Quote-to-order time improved by 20%

According to Spectroplast, the results from using 3YOURMIND software are fundamental in expanding the AM service bureau’s business.

“In this kind of industry, you cannot scale whenever processes are not streamlined,” says Alekseev. “This year, 3YOURMIND enabled us to establish and streamline processes to help scale up our business.” 

Spectroplast now conducts the majority of its communication in-platform, which has helped increase the efficiency of its sales by 25%.

“With 3YOURMIND software, you can communicate within the platform,” says Alekseev. “So it means that we’ll be talking about one specific order. We do not touch all the other orders, which are still ongoing.”

The platform’s end-to-end encryption also creates greater trust between Spectroplast and its customers when handling privileged information.

“With 3YOURMIND, it’s a proper platform,” says Alekseev. “Customers are more willing to upload data without additional documentation.” 

Another crucial component of improving production lead time was enabling customers to diagnose design suitability using 3YOURMIND’s print analysis tool.

“3YOURMIND helps eliminate obviously not printable parts, which saves resources from other areas,” says Stefanov.

Spectroplast was also able to improve its quote-to-order time by enabling customers to make production decisions with fewer delays.

“Now, our pricing formula is embedded in the platform, so it basically happens automatically,” says Alekseev. “Our customers are now able to create live quotations and place orders automatically through the platform with automatic pricing,” says Alekseev.

Automatic status updates also help Spectroplast, and its customers, stay abreast of production orders by eliminating manual communication.

“Whenever we move further in the process, so basically accepting orders, shipping out orders, etc., those notifications go out automatically to the customer,” says Alekseev. “So customers are getting live updates.” 

In addition, Spectroplast experiences simplified machine utilization, which helps maximize machine capacity.

“We increased capacity and machine utilization by applying print jobs that match available capacity with current demand,” says Stefanov. “As a result, we’re now able to get more parts per machine by using 3YOURMIND.” 

By increasing machine utilization, Spectroplast can provide faster service to its customers.

“We used to be able to manufacture parts within ten days, even though the process itself in many cases might just take one day,” says Stefanov. “Now, because of these optimizations from using 3YOURMIND, we were able to launch an express service which speeds up production to five days.”

As a result of Spectroplast’s improvements, the AM service provider is now looking toward the future.

“3YOURMIND enables part of our business model today and going into the future as well,” says Stefanov. “Spectroplast will continue to be a supplier of silicon products, and going forward, hopefully, a distributed supplier, meaning multiple facilities, worldwide – and 3YOURMIND mind is in alignment with this.” 

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